What is bone?

Bone is living, growing tissue. It is made mostly of collagen, a protein that provides a soft framework, and calcium phosphate, a mineral that adds strength and hardens the framework. The combination &collagen and calcium makes bone strong and flexible to withstand stress.

Throughout life, bone is constantly renewed. Old bone tissue is broken down and removed. New bone tissue is laid down to replace the old. Think of bone as a bank account, where you "deposit" and "withdraw" bone tissue.

During childhood and the teenage years, new bone is added to the skeleton faster than old bone is removed. After age 30, bone "withdrawals" can begin to exceed "deposits." Osteoporosis develops when bone removal occurs too quickly, replacement occurs too slowly, or both.

Why women need to understand their risk for osteoporosis.

* Estrogen is a female hormone that helps protect the skeleton

* Women with eating disorders, who experience an absence of menstrual periods, or take glucocorticoid medication (such as prednisone) may be at increased risk for developing osteoporosis.

* If you are pregnant or nursing an infant, you need extra calcium in your diet--both for yourself and your child's early bone development. Midlife is a critical time for women to be concerned about their bone health. During and immediately following menopause, there is a period of rapid bone loss that can last five to seven years.

Tips to help prevent a bone fracture:

* Stay active--exercise and work to improve your balance. Tai Chi, a slow movement exercise program, has been shown to reduce the risk of falling by 47 percent.

* Be careful taking medications that increase the likelihood of a fall (these include blood pressure pills, heart medicines, diuretics or water pills, muscle...

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